In his introduction to MIT Technology Review’s 50 Smartest Companies list for 2014, Brian Bergstein paraphrased Justice Stewart Potter’s 1964 threshold test for obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”
“It might sound difficult to define what makes a smart company,”Bergstein wrote, “but you know one when you see it.”
Using that definition, Apple and Facebook didn’t make the cut. “Reputation doesn’t matter,” to MIT’s editors. “We’re highlighting where important innovations are happening right now.”
So what companies did look “smart” to the smartypants on the Charles?
- IBM (whose reputation dates back to 1880): “Its Watson system could deliver more answers from big data.”
- Walmart (a Web shopping laggard): “1 billion Walmart.com page views in first five days of holiday season.”
- Samsung (which lost its lead in smartphones in 2014): “Maximizing the advantages of its vertical integration as it extends its lead in the smartphone market.”
I can’t wait to see who makes the list in 2015.
Thanks for Forbes contributor Panos Mourdoukoutas for the link, even if it was a year late.
Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.
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